UKHOOPS: NCAA Tourney Round 1 Vs. McNeese St Game Preview

NCAA Women's Tournament

(2) Kentucky vs. (15) McNeese State

Sat., Mar. 17 - 4:20 p.m. ET

Ames, Iowa

TV: ESPN 2 Radio: IMG

So, your brackets are in the tank, your wildest dreams came true when Duke took and early exit in the first round of the Men's NCAA's, and You have got your mind on the UK Vs. Iowa State game at 7:45 tonight. But not so fast my friends and fellow members of the Big Blue Nation. There is another game before that one. No, not the Vandy game against Wisconsin which will finish sinking your bracket into depths that Neptune himself could not reach. No, not the Syracuse game against Kansas St. where they may find themselves booking early flights home as well as Duke. No, that Iowa State game is not the only game today folks. The Cats also play today against McNeese St. at 4:20 the Lady Cats, that is.

Matthew Mitchell's UKHOOPS squad kicks off their tourney at 4:20 today and they are looking to take their steps toward their own shot at an NCAA title. With a hard-earned #2 seed in the Kingston Regional, UK hopes to make it beyond the opening round and possibly a matchup with Iowa state themselves in the next round, should Iowa State be fortunate enough to defeat #7 Green Bay. Since there are live blogs going on all day, I am not going to run a separate thread for the game, just feel free to follow along and post as you like with the other games that everyone will be following. That way you can channel surf to your heart's content.

For the first time in UK Hoops history, the Wildcats have advanced to three straight NCAA tournaments, and the Wildcats' No. 2 seed ties its highest ever in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats (25-6) will face 15-seeded McNeese State in the first round Saturday at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. The other first round matchup in Ames, Iowa, features No. 7 seed Green Bay (30-1) and No. 10 seed Iowa State (18-12).

UK has been led by A'dia Mathies, who was named the SEC Player of the Year as well as first team All-SEC and SEC All-Defensive Team. Mathies is also in contention for four national player of the year awards, including the John R. Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy, Wade Trophy and U.S. Basketball Writers Association National Player of the Year Award.

UK has a good breakdown of the McNeese State squad:

Scouting McNeese State

•McNeese State (26-7), located in Lake Charles, La., claimed the 2012 Southland Conference Tournament Championship with a 60-56 win over Stephen F. Austin. The Cowgirls were led in that game by junior guard Caitlyn Baggett, who scored a team-high 21 points, including four 3-pointers. Baggett's twin sister, Ashlyn, added 14 points and a team-high five assists. Senior forwards Kendra Wells and Martika Hull added 12 and 11 rebounds, respectively.

•The Baggett twins lead McNeese State in scoring, with Ashlyn averaging 15.7 points per game and Caitlyn averaging 14.2 points per game. Caitlyn also runs the Cowgirls' offense with 4.2 assists per game. Wells and Hull lead the Cowgirls on the glass, pulling down 10.3 and 9.2 rebounds per game, respectively.

•Brooks Donald-Williams is in her fifth year leading the McNeese State Cowgirls, and has led the Cowgirls to new heights. Williams led McNeese to its second ever Southland Conference title last season and its first-ever Southland Conference Tournament title. It's under Williams' coaching that the Cowgirls are now in their second consecutive NCAA Tournament, and their second ever NCAA Tournament. Williams, the Southland Conference Coach of the Year in 2011, is 83-73 (.532) at McNeese. The Cowgirls' back-to-back 26-7 seasons are their first 20-win seasons in 25 years.

•The Cowgirls have won nine consecutive games leading into the NCAA Tournament.

UK beat McNeese State the only other time they played back in 2009 by a hefty 35 pt. margin. Expect UK to come out fast and furious as they will want to establish their press and get off to a good start. I don't see this first game being a big ordeal for UK, but they cannot afford to look past the Cowgirls. A victory will give UK a date with either the women from Iowa State, just like the men, or a Green Bay squad that is 30-1 and does not take prisoners. Enjoy the game, and enjoy the day. After yesterday's bracket obliterating debacle, today should seem like a walk in the park. I hope.